Dell Precision M6700 Notebook Review: The Enterprise Splitby Dustin Sklavos on December 12, 2012 7:43 PM EST
In and Around the Dell Precision M6700
The internal hardware goes a long way, certainly, but the Dell Precision M6700 is unfortunately on the back foot when it comes to shell design. Take a look at our review of the HP EliteBook 8760w then come back here, and you'll see that Dell's aesthetic comes up short in more ways than one. You'll see it's not just about looks, either; HP's design is more functional.
Part of what kills is that the Precison M6700's shell may incorporate magnesium alloy and aluminum alloy, but it feels largely plastic. Dell's site lists the M6700 as having been subjected to Mil-spec 810G testing, but not if it meets that standard, while HP confirms that their current-generation 8770w does. They apparently use aluminum for trim and the back of the lid, but as a whole the notebook just doesn't feel as all around sturdy as its competitor is.
That said, when you do open it, the interior surfaces are flex-free, just uninspiring. The M6700 is two-toned, but the two tones aren't really complimentary. They use a gunmetal gray that's very dark, so that in soft light it's essentially indistinguishable from the black plastic used for the keyboard trim and bottom panel. As a whole, the two tones aren't unattractive, but there's a kind of cheap feeling to the materials, regardless of whether or not they actually are. HP's EliteBook looks and feels sturdy, with the aluminum trim and interior shell.
People who lament HP's shift to a chiclet keyboard may be happy at first with the M6700's traditional key style, but Dell's keyboard layout is confused both for them and for the end user. The "Page Up" and "Page Down" keys sandwich the up arrow, while the row normally reserved for document navigation above the number pad is instead a shortcut for the calculator and then media controls, which just plain don't belong on a notebook like this. Those could very easily and should very easily have been Fn+Function Key combinations. Overall the keyboard is plenty usable, but the layout is off-putting. On a less expensive notebook it's something that can be tolerated and adapted to; on a notebook that starts north of $1,600, it's unacceptable. As for the touchpad, it's mostly fine and easy to use, but it's actually on the small side and could stand to be wider. Again, though, Dell's design lacks the pleasant surface treatment of HP's.
Finally, the M6700 could make up some ground by at least being easy to service, but that turns out not to really be the case. HP's design is as easy as pushing a latch and popping off the bottom panel, but the M6700 was actually a little confusing. There are two screws hidden inside the battery slot that must be removed, and then the panel slides up and off. The interior layout supports three 2.5" drives and an mSATA drive, but what's the point of having one drive caddy slide out of the side of the case if you have to remove an internal screw to unlock it? It's not a horrible interior design and definitely looks reinforced, but the M6700 just feels a little more cobbled together than I'd like.
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headbox - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - linkYeah, but how many fps do you get playing Quake?
Anyways. Resale value/demand for the Precision line is very bad. I've had two that I paid over $2k for, and couldn't get more than $400 a couple years later. Meanwhile I had a Macbook Pro I paid $1800, and sold it over 2 years later for $1400. The quadro is about the only thing that makes the Precision line worth considering, and very few people will benefit from it. Modern 2D and 3D apps makes good use of the CUDA cores in the GeForce cards just fine.
Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - linkLook at the SPECviewperf results. Consumer GPUs are still woefully inadequate for a lot of workstation tasks that Quadros are geared towards. The GPUs in MBPs may be fine for video and image editing, but that's really about it.
Also, MBPs are ever increasingly locked down, making them poorer and poorer choices for enterprise.
Zodiark1593 - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - linkFor once being reputed for the "Pro", you'd have thought Apple would have at least offered Quadro or FirePro GPUs as options.
Steveymoo - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - linkActually, the GPUs are nearly identical. It's the drivers, and the customer support that you pay extra for with workstation GPUs. You can even use forceware to install quadro drivers for consumer cards - but obviously you won't get any support if anything goes wrong.
aguilpa1 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - linkexactly, it's not like the quadro line is really that much superior to the Geforce line it is just the Geforce line has been artificially handicapped through software and I would guess some hardware features disabled. Software and driver qualifications for the most part just mean that you will never be able to have the latest updates or features because your driver model advances at a glacial pace and you pay extra for that. Quadro workstations are a niche product and should be relegated to that. I think the only reason Apple likes to use Quadro's is because then they don't have to mess with driver releases and charge even more than they already do for a unique product most Mac users don't even understand they don't need.
RandomUsername3245 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - linkCan you post a link on how to get quadro drivers to work with geforce cards? I know people could hack cards in the past to do this, but I haven't seen it work in the last few years. The Quadro drivers (and nvidia-enabled hardware) on Quadro cards make allow for huge performance gains in some CAD applications.
ananduser - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - linkApple's resale value has everything to do with the supply. You want to get an OSX capable machine from other place rather than Apple with lower prices you have no choice but to pay those high resale values. Good for you, bad for the purchaser but way better than buying straight from Apple.
Solandri - Monday, December 17, 2012 - linkThe high resale value is because Apple makes it virtually impossible to tell which year the laptop was made. They're all called Macbook or Macbook Pro. You buy a used "Macbook" off of craigslist and you pretty much need a tech guru with you to figure out what year it was made. (The label with the model number is hidden underneath the battery, and you have to cross-reference it with wikipedia since Apple's page of model numbers hasn't been updated in a year and a half.)
So basically, the prices are high because a bunch of computer neophytes (most Mac users) are buying 2-5 year old laptops thinking they are 1 year old. My cousin almost bought a new Macbook at his school store on sale for $900. He called me first and I talked him through how to find the model number. It was an ancient Core 2 Duo model when the latest were sporting Sandy Bridge CPUs.
If you desperately want to run OS X on a cheap machine, get the VMWare hack to unlock the limitation that only allows OS X Server to run. Then you can run vanilla OS X under Windows or Linux. (How you get the copy is another matter...)
robinthakur - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - linkThat's not really true though and is a gross over simplification. Perhaps just for uninformed people such as your cousin. The majority of smart people making an investment in the region of £1300-£2000 do quite a lot of research before parting with their cash. If you look on Craigslist/Gumtree etc. it will most usually say what the CPU and RAM are and you can work it out from this, or just look on the box label/System Information in OSX if you really can't work it out. You can also buy them reconditioned cheaper directly from Apple's website where it gives you a detailed system spec along with when it was originally released. I own a Macbook Pro retina and a Win8/Hackintosh which I built myself from scratch.
piroroadkill - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link.. Which is exactly why I bought a Precision on ebay! A fantastic way to get a great machine.